Richard Curtis and romance is about as synonymous as KFC is with chicken; it's likely both a blessing and a curse for him as there's quite often a lot more to his writing than boy meets girl. His films have always been viewed as on the surface, black and white romances. This is likely not helped by titles that are incredibly direct. Four Weddings and a Funeral has the plot in five words, Love Actually is everywhere, and here, About Time, we have a film that is about time. Yet, never has there been a Richard Curtis film where people should stop and think more than this, a film which is potentially his final foray into directing on the big screen. Should About Time be the end, then it delivers his most important message yet...
There's a wickedly clever twist that the film situates itself into; the male characters of the family you follow have an ability to travel back to different points of their life to re-live and influence the outcomes to their advantage. It adds an extra dimension to Curtis' writing, but he never lets the science behind it take centre stage. This is a story about people who may have this extraordinary gift, but it's about how they use it rather than how they have it to begin with.
Leading the way is Domhnall Gleeson, a relative newcomer to many of the Muggles out there, and the story demands a very nuanced performance from his inexperienced shoulders. He has to carry every element of About Time's sweeping, decades-long tale, and Gleeson finds a delightful character in Tim that the audience can love regardless of whether what he is doing is right or wrong. Tim has the most weight on his shoulders, the most important decisions to make, and it's testament to his skills in the role that you route for his every move. Curtis' leading man is always written in a similar style, and every line Gleeson says could just have easily come from Hugh Grant's mouth, but you can't help but feel the film stands out more through the eyes of someone new.
There is a love story to be had in About Time, his chance encounter with Rachel McAdams' Mary paves the way for a light hearted first half, very much the film people will be expecting to see, also very much a surprise then to see Tim largely complete his quest for Mary's heart before the first hour is up. It's a love story told elegantly, it's hilarious in parts, heart breaking in others but it is what follows that truly calls for your kleenex.
The film swings itself around towards the beginning of the third act, as we begin to explore the relationship between Tim and his father, played with usual swagger and care by Bill Nighy. It's a masterful piece of casting, Nighy able to balance the light and dark directions his character finds himself with ease. A story about fathers and sons, about memories, about capturing the moments in life emerges, using all the fun it had with the time travel plot device to twist it on its head and make you truly think about what you should and could achieve with such a blessing. It's a beautiful thought that delivers in its execution, and you'll yearn to break out of the theatre and spend some time with your loved ones.
That's not to say that About Time is perfect. There is a spell between Act one and Act three that meanders a little; it may be setting things up that we need later on down the road, but at the time you'll have a cheeky glance at your watch.
Maybe there's a secret message in the films title, something you don't fully comprehend until the credits start rolling. Richard Curtis may have made a film about time, but he's also showing you something about time that we often forget. It never, ever stops. So make the most of it. Let's hope Richard Curtis directing British feature films also never, ever stops...
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Posted by The Adam Harris at Sunday, August 11, 2013 5 Comments
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